A Chicago lawyer has brought his battle over allegedly stolen bankruptcy software to federal court after the suit he filed four years ago in state court failed to reach final judgment.
Peter Francis Geraci, known to avid television viewers throughout the Chicago area for his “bankruptcy info tapes,” originally filed suit in 2010 in DuPage County Court against R. William Amidon, a former employee, and others.
He claimed Amidon copied and shared his trademarked bankruptcy law practice management software — Geraci Automated Program (GapC)– when he created similar software for rival bankruptcy firm Legal Helpers.
Filed Friday in Chicago’s federal court, Geraci’s suit, which seeks more than $1 million in damages, again names Amidon and Thomas G. Macey, founder of Legal Helpers, though the names of several co-defendants in his state court suit are not included.
The suit again accuses Amidon of violating Geraci’s copyright to the software and handing the code at its heart over to Macey. It alleges the duo’s actions violated the Illinois Trade Secrets Act and that Amidon breached a contract.
According to his recently-filed federal complaint, Geraci hired Amidon in 1996 to develop GapC, software Geraci asserts he designed to streamline the process of generating bankruptcy-related forms and managing appointments, litigation and client information.
Geraci asserts he fired Amidon in 2006, and then in 2010, discovered Amidon had been “working secretly for Macey.” Geraci claims he uncovered an exact copy of his computer code on Macey’s server, along with a similar program called “LH1” that Geraci’s forensic experts determined was based on the code Amidon and Macey had stolen from him.
In the suit he filed in 2010 in state court, a DuPage County judge found in favor of the defendants, but a panel of the Second District Appellate Court in December ruled in favor of Geraci and remanded the case for further proceedings.
The defendants unsuccessfully sought rehearing and review from the Illinois Supreme Court, according to Geraci’s suit, which goes on to note the appeals panel in February entered a protective order in the case requiring all documents to be filed under seal.
Geraci non-suited Amidon before the appeal, and is proceeding to non-suit the rest of the state court action in light of Macey dissolving his bankruptcy law practice and being an involuntary debtor in bankruptcy proceedings in the Southern District of New York. No final judgment was rendered against Amidon or Macey in the original case.
In his federal suit, Geraci levels new allegations at Kevin Chern, a former employee of his own firm and a law school friend of Macey. Chern, however, is not named as a defendant.
Geraci accuses Chern of “stealing client information and giving it to Macey,” and claims that when confronted about it, Chern quit and went to work for Macey.
“Macey and Chern decided to copy Geraci’s law practice, and steal his trade secrets. They decided they could not accomplish this because a multi-office, multi-state consumer bankruptcy practice would not be profitable without software such as Geraci’s, so they hired Amidon to steal Geraci’s software,” Geraci’s suit alleges.
Geraci contends that Amidon would leave his “office with daily copies of software updates, or builds, and go to Macey’s office and give them to Macey in exchange for small sums of money, while he remained on Geraci’s payroll.”
According to Geraci’s allegations, a widespread conspiracy of former firm members followed.
“Macey and Chern then hired numerous attorneys from Geraci’s office who were familiar with his software and algorithms and trade secrets,” his suit asserts.
Geraci claims those attorneys who had worked for him went over to Macey’s firm and used their knowledge of his business model to copy his practice.
Several former members of Geraci’s firm who were named in the original DuPage County case are accused of betraying him to go become partners at Macey’s firm, but are not named as defendants in federal suit; among them Shobhana Khasturi, Jeffrey Aleman and Richard Gustafson. Also mentioned by name were former Geraci attorneys Richard Melendez and Guillermo Guisse.